Gordon Murray T.50: the 654bhp supercar that controls the air

Published: 04 August 2020

► 100 cars at £2.36 million each
► 654bhp of nat-asp V12 power
► Only 986kg, and has a fan!  

Gordon Murray Automotive has finally pulled the covers off its T.50 hypercar – and there’s certainly more than a passing resemblance to the McLaren F1.

Powered by a 654bhp 3.9-litre naturally-aspirated V12 and weighing in at less than a tonne, the T.50 has been designed as a celebration of Gordan Murray’s 50-year career and promises to be ‘the most driver-centric supercar ever made’.

Totally bespoke

The 100% bespoke engine shares none of its parts with any other vehicle and is just 3.9-litres in displacement. Taking inspiration from many sources but particularly the 3.3-litre V12 of the Ferrari 250 GTO, the tiny engine produces 164bhp per litre.

At 986kg, it'll be one of the lightest cars on the road – but with 654bhp – it'll also have one of the best power-to-weight ratios. For context, the 2020 Porsche 911 Turbo S has around a 375bhp per tonne power-to-weight ratio.  

t.50 front overhead

Every area of the car has been subject to a strict weight-saving process. The Cosworth V12 at the centre of the T50 weighs less than 180kg, making it more than 60kg leaner than the BMW-derived V12 of the McLaren F1. This lightness aids response - GMA claims it will rev from idle to its 12,100rpm redline in just 0.3 seconds.

McLaren F1: CAR's original 1994 road test

Yet it's not all about high-revving hooliganism, as while maximum torque comes in at 9000rpm GMA claims 71% of that will be available from as low as 2500rpm. Despite this, the T.50 will come with two engine modes. The second will allow full revs, but the first will top out at around 9000rpm (‘Ferrari revs’ as Murray calls it) and deliver more low-end grunt.

The T.50’s six-speed Xtrac 'box is almost 10kg lighter than the McLaren F1’s and the pedal box is 300g lighter. What's more, the body panels themselves and the monocoque weigh in at a total of less than 150kg.

'Designing a lightweight sports car does not come from specifying exotic materials alone,' says Murray, 'it comes from a state of mind, from absolute focus and control, and from a deep understanding of lightweight, optimised design.

'Today, the enjoyment of driving has been lost as so many supercars only come ‘alive’ at the upper-ends of their performance capabilities. Chasing a top speed only adds weight (notably through ever-more powerful engines), so the future of true performance cars lies in shedding weight intelligently.'

t50 side overhead

One part of the car that’s not completely bespoke, however, is the tyres. Riding on Michelin Pilot Sport 4S (295/30 R20 front, 235/35 R19 rear), the T.50 avoids the stickier compounds that most supercar makers opt for and makes do with a notably smaller cross section).

Murray explains that ‘the size comes directly from the weight of the car, we simply don’t need big tyres. This car is not about chasing numbers. Most people will put a softer compound on to get a slightly better 0-60mph time. We know this is going to be quick, so it’s better to fit something that is more sensible for everyday use.’

'It's always annoyed me that no one has done an F1 since the F1,' says Murray, aware that the sentiment could be construed as a lack of modesty. 'I know it sounds big-headed, but nobody's done a pure, lightweight, focused driver's car since – the T.50 will be better in every way.'

All 100 T.50s will be built in 2022. 'Given the costs, this could be the last great analogue supercar,' muses Murray. 'I've driven all the latest supercars. They're fantastic, but they don't involve you in any way, shape or form. Get back into an F1 and the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. T.50 will do the same.'

The aero

As shown by the official images, the T.50 is dominated by a 400mm ground-effect fan controlled by a 48v motor. By controlling the airflow underneath the car, this allows the bodywork to have far smoother lines than on many other high-downforce supercars. Said ground-effect fan has been developed using Racing Point F1 team's windtunnel using 40% models, and comes with six settings, all conducting the car’s moving aerodynamic surfaces. 

t50 fan

Auto mode responds to driver inputs, while Braking mode doubles the level of downforce using the fan – and deploys the rear aerofoils like an airbrake. This shortens the braking distance of the T.50 by 10 metres.

High Downforce mode will increase the amount the car is forced onto tarmac by 30% – so ideal in twisty bits, while Streamline mode reduces drag by 10%, eases off the downforce and increases top speed and fuel consumption. Underbody ducts are shut, and the fan increases the trailing wake of the car, creating what Murray calls a ‘virtual longtail.’

Finally, a V-max mode works just like Streamline mode, but takes top speed over consumption and gives the car a 30bhp boost using the 48V starter motor.

The T.50’s engine

It's going to be quite an engine: 'Put simply, the bespoke engine in the T.50 supercar will be the highest-revving, highest power density, lightest and fastest-responding naturally-aspirated V12 ever made for a road car,' say its makers. That's fighting talk.

t50 rear

Engine sound, too, is an obvious priority. Taking (and improving on) technology from the McLaren F1, the T.50 features Direct Path Induction Sound that helps to channel the V12’s vocals into the cabin. Cleverly, though, the cold-air ram induction intake that helps to amplify noise, is actuated on throttle angle rather than revs, allowing careful management of how raucous the engine is.

Bucking the trend of highly complex auto transmissions with seven or more speeds, the T.50 is exclusively available with a six-speed manual transmission developed by British manufacturer Xtrac. Coming in at 9.5kg lighter (80.5kg in total) than the unit in the McLaren F1, Murray’s target is clear – ‘I want this to have the best manual change ever’.

Inside Murray’s T.50

The T.50 is unashamedly driver-focused, yet that doesn’t mean there’s not space for two passengers to come along for the ride, too. And, while you may not associate hypercars with luggage capacity, the T.50 manages around 300 litres of space thanks to luggage carrying pods on the sides, a custom-built suitcase for one of the passenger seat and cubby holes that add up to 30 litres.

t50 interior

What’s more, the controls are a thing of carefully machined beauty. The switches, for example, are made out of aircraft-grade titanium and features optimum tactility for ease of use.

There are also two screens either side of the analogue rev counter, both of which are controlled by scroller dials on the otherwise plain steering wheel. Indicator stalks are banished, replaced by thumb buttons on the wheel spokes and paddles for the lights and horn – the idea being that you won’t need to take your hands off the wheel in order to get other drivers out of the way.

By James Dennison

Head of automotive video for CAR magazine and our sister website Parkers.co.uk

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